Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shooting The Fundraising Dog

Way back when I was barely a teenager, National Lampoon magazine was the utmost in risque humor. One famous and classic example of their pushing the limits of the acceptable was their January 1973 cover featuring a dog with a gun pointed at his head and the text, "If you don't buy this magazine, We'll Kill This Dog."

It was distasteful, it was outrageous, it was offensive, it was shocking, and it was, ultimately, just plain funny. It's also a great example of the fundraising strategy used at one time or another by nearly every one of us in the nonprofit sector. Don't believe me? How about this email subject line that just landed in my inbox: "Urgent Request: More than 24,000 children will die today but you can help."

This is what we've all been taught to do: Illustrate a need and create a sense of urgency! Buy the magazine or the dog gets it.

We all know the importance of our organization's mission, and understand our dependence on the good will of others to fund the work, but don't you think it's time to put the guilt trips aside?

Perhaps I just contributed to the death of 24,000 children, but I deleted that email. I didn't even read it first. Now, had the headline told me about 24,000 children saved (fed, clothed, housed, schooled...), I would have been curious.

Lead with your success and your strength, and I will want to be a part of that. More bad news and guilt, I really don't need right now. I'll bet a lot of other donors feel this way as well. Let's put that poor dog out of his misery and put the gun down, once and for all.

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